In this excellent review of Amanda Ripley’s new book “Smartest Kids in the World,” Annie Murphy Paul highlights one of the biggest changes in how we perceive American education.

“Historically, Americans ‘hadn’t needed a very rigorous education, and they hadn’t gotten it. Wealth had made rigor optional.’ But now, [Ripley] points out, ‘everything had changed. In an automated, global economy, kids needed to be driven; they need to know how to adapt, since they would be doing it all their lives. They needed a culture of rigor.'”

Paul’s book review discusses Ripley’s study of three cultures’ perspective of education: Finland, South Korea, and Poland. The difference in what drives students to learn in each of these “successful” countries provides important context to what drives American students.

“If you want the American dream, go to Finland.” These blunt words from a British politician, quoted by Amanda Ripley in “The Smartest Kids in the World,” may lead readers to imagine that her book belongs to a very particular and popular genre.

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